3 Effective Ways to Use a Blog to Boost Your Retail Business

Depositphotos_41742531_smallA million times you’ve heard that you need a blog to get more customers. Maybe you even created a blog for your retail business. You created the blog, wrote a bunch of articles with eager anticipation of the customers who would stampede through your door. You stare at your door waiting…

The flood of new customers never arrives. Heck, it seems like not a single additional customer came in due to your blog. What’s wrong? Maybe you’ve avoided creating a blog because of similar stories you’ve heard from others who have tried and failed. Whether you have tried a blog and had no success or avoided starting a blog, this article is for you.

What nobody explains about blogging for a retail business

Nobody explains just HOW to blog to bring customers through your door, but I’m here to help you with that. The first mistake that everybody makes is blogging about them self. The truth is your customers don’t care about you. Customers care about themselves. They’ll never come into your shop just to put money in your cash register; they’ll only come to get something they want or need for themselves. So, blog about how your customers benefit from your products.

Here are 3 things that will help you attract customers to your store.

1. Demonstrate your products being used

Few stores show their product being enjoyed or put to best use.

Write a blog post showing how your product can be used. If your product is a tool, show it being used by an expert to fix things. If it is clothing, show it being worn with other items you sell and inspire your customers to make their own fashion statement. How-to articles are one of the most popular types of blog posts. People are always searching for ways to do something. Demonstrate what problem your product solves or how people are happier using your product.

IKEA’s Share Space blog allows people show the creative ways they have used IKEA products. The blog is written in a casual, friendly tone and includes lots of pictures of people’s projects.

2 Establish trust in your industry

Over 80% of people do research on the web before making a purchase. A blog is the perfect place to give people a buying guide to the products you sell. Start by answering questions that your customers regularly ask.

River Pools and Spas started writing content on their blog that simply answered their customers’ questions. Today their blog gets more traffic than any other pool company site in the world.

Do not be a salesman when you write a guide. Write the post as if you were talking to a dear friend that you wanted to know the honest truth. Use some photographs in the article and help people understand why one feature is better, in what circumstances, and what its shortcomings are. Giving people honest expert advice to make a purchase will build a rapport with your customers.

Create an article that explains, step-by-step, how to use or make something with your product. Add a checklist, or questions to ask when shopping and you have given your customers a goldmine of information. Strive to inform in a way that doesn’t have the goal of making you money. Instead, help everyone better informed about your products.

3. Show off your shop’s personality

More and more, people are buying from those who they know, like and trust. A blog gives your shop personality. Like I said earlier, you don’t want to sound like a salesman. When you write blog posts, be personable.

Use empathy with your customer when writing. By sharing common experiences with your customers, you are building a relationship with them because you have a shared interest in common. This increases the bond you and your customer have and will increase traffic through your door.

The Artists Frame Service does a good job of mixing in their personality with their blog.

Your customers are online and you should be there too

Retail blogs fail because they don’t focus on what the customers want; blog about topics that your customers find interesting. A blog is the easiest way to link your brick and mortar store with the online world. If you use it right, you’ll have a major advantage over your competition.

Your customer will be much more likely to find you in search engines. You’ll not only answer all their questions but show them that you really get them. They will remember you for it, and from then on they will much rather come to your shop over others.

robert-newmanRob Newman is CEO of Get Web Clients. If you’d like to learn more about what it really takes to get more visitors to your website, build your email list, and become an authority in your niche, subscribe today.

 

The 20 Minute Social Media Routine for Haters

Haters Guide

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I love social media, but I acknowledge it can be time-consuming. Sometimes I find myself losing hours reading great content and keeping up on the latest news 140 characters at a time. If you’re a small business owner, you probably feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to grow your business let alone tweet, post, like, share and pin on social media. You may even hate social media entirely.

At Duct Tape Marketing, we’re all about creating systems that help you execute your marketing tasks quickly and get back to running your business. John created a robust system that hit all of the important aspects of social media some time ago, but it does require some love and attention. For all you haters out there, it may be too much.

But, with a few handy tools, you can develop a quick social media routine that will help you reach your goals. Here are three steps that even the biggest hater can use to rock social media in less than 20 minutes a day.

Automatically Share Your Content

Your # 1 focus for your social media routine should be to drive traffic to your blog. You should make it a part of your posting routine to share your new content on social media. You can save a little time by installing a WordPress plugin like Jetpack Publicize to share directly from your WordPress dashboard. You can even adjust your settings, so the post is shared automatically as soon as you publish.

Est. Time Per Day: If installed as part of your content posting routine, less than 2 Minutes.

Schedule Updates

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook live in the moment, so to speak. Posts don’t last long in your customers’ timelines, and they don’t often go searching for past posts. That’s why your social media success relies upon your ability to post and share frequently when your customers are most active.

That would require multiple posts at peak times throughout the day but that’s far too time-consuming.

Luckily there are several social media tools you can use to pre-write and schedule your posts, including Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Buffer.

These tools will also give you the opportunity to schedule several posts promoting your new content posts throughout the day. Social media is more popular in the afternoons after work, so take advantage of that knowledge and make sure you promote your blog posts then, regardless of when you publish.

Don’t even want to write the posts? Use Emphatic and you’ll get a number of social posts handwritten for you, and can approve and schedule them directly from their dashboard. They’ll even collect content from a list of blogs of your choosing, and create posts to share that content. It’s almost as if you don’t have to do social media at all.

Est. Time Per Day: 8 minutes for plenty of social posts. Less if you use post creation services like Emphatic.

Share Content

One of the best ways to spread your social influence is to share content from other influencers. Take a few moments a day to read a blog post or two from influencers in your industry and share what you read on social media.

To save time finding posts to share, you can set up Twitter lists of your favorite blogs. Want to collect content to share outside of social media platforms? Use Feedly or any other RSS reader to collect all of your favorite blogs in one place, and take some time to read every day. Then you can collect the links, schedule your posts in Buffer, and you’ll never have to visit the actual social media site.

Est. Time Per Day: 10 minutes, most of which is spent reading. The sharing itself takes just minutes.

Hate it or not, social media is where a lot of your customers get their moment-to-moment news. Every day that you aren’t leveraging social media to reach them is another day that you and your business are forgotten. Installing a social media routine with these three easy steps can maximize your impact, without taking too much time out of your already busy schedule. Just 20 minutes a day is all it takes to rock social media.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443

Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Choose the Right Content Platform

Why do we need so many content platforms?

information overloadSometimes it feels like we are drowning in our Twitter feed and don’t have time to read through all of our Feedly blogs. We are in information overload, and it’s not slowing down. Social media, emails, blogs, websites, advertisements, radio, television, are all coming at us with tons of “need to know” information. Wouldn’t life be easier with one content platform? One place where we get all the information we ever needed?

Yea, that would be great. Unfortunately, just like some of us are listening learners, some are visual and some are doers, everyone consumes information in different ways. Certain topics might be interesting to some people, and they will spend time reading into the topics, watching videos, looking at pictures, clicking through to find more information. Others might not even get through that headline.

For that reason, we have hundreds of content platforms to choose from. That being said, how do you choose the platform that is right for your organization?

  1. Examine your ideal customer.
  2. Identify your assets.
  3. Match your tools with your time.

Examine your Ideal Customer

If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, stop right here and go read this. For those of you who do know who your ideal customer is, do you know where they spend the most time online? In order to know what content platforms to focus on, you absolutely have to know this.

If you are spending time on Facebook posts and advertising, but your ideal customer is reading reddit, then you are throwing money to the wind, and no one wants to do that. Examine your ideal customer, where they are getting their news, where they are shopping, and ultimately, where they want to see information about your brand.

Identify your Assets

Many organizations attempt to participate on certain content platforms because that’s where their ideal customer is active, but don’t have the right assets to be engaging on that platform. If you offer a service rather than a product, a visual platform like Instagram might be difficult to participate on. If that platform is where your ideal customer is active, you’ll need to spend time developing those visual assets.

Determine what kind of information you already have available, and then push the limits with that information. Determine how it can be turned into a video, photo, graphic, podcast, blog post, website page, etc. Take the content you have, and turn it into the content you need!

Match your Tools with your Time

This step is where you determine what you need to be doing, with what you are capable of doing. If I am someone’s ideal customer, for example, a brand might want to reach me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, e-newsletter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and via commercials during Survivor. A little overwhelming, right? Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to scale your content strategy:

  • Plan Plan Plan
    Planning your content out can help you get the most out of the content that you have – and will help you to not constantly be looking for something to use. You’ll be prepped and ready to go with your next post, picture, etc.
  • Quality Trumps Quantity
    Producing content for the purpose of producing content isn’t fooling anyone. With the amount of content available today, people can be picky with what they are soaking in. Make sure you are offering the best value for your customers as you can.
  • Repurpose
    Again, thinking outside the box about content that you already have is a great way to really drive home good information in a variety of ways. Be creative and you’ll get more miles out of your blog post and podcasts than you ever thought possible!

What content platforms are you trying to reach in your content strategy?

Kala LinckKala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels, praying for summer or tweeting about coffee and cats @tadasunshine.

How to Be or Not Be In a Digital World

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 3.15.06 PMWe’ve watched online presence transform from a hobby or a pastime into a mandatory, crucial, and overwhelmingly powerful tool practiced by everyone familiar with the World Wide Web. What is fast becoming clear is that 10 years from now, online presence will replace resumes and will serve as our business card whether for professional purposes or social and romantic ones. This reality lends urgency to the question of how we, average Joes, promote ourselves on the web? How do we become our own content marketing, SEO, and copywriting team?

Gone are the days of posting whatever feels right at the spur of the moment anywhere and everywhere on the web. The good old days of carefree frolicking on the net have made way to a new and very different kind of web presence. This is the time of the carefully thought out posts, the manicured pictures, and the well-formulated responses. These are the days of the meticulously crafted Likes and Shares and the cautionary tales of intimate affairs gone viral and private pictures haunting teenage girls.

At the Social Fresh Conference a few months ago, three out of five panelists chose to discuss digital presence. In the words of the table’s moderator, “practically every business in the world knows the importance of an online presence. Most people find it off-putting if a business doesn’t have a website to talk about itself.” With recruiters and hiring managers in businesses of all sizes turning to the web to gain insight into potential candidates and one in every five employers using social networks to screen job seekers, it is clear why being MIA online is deemed anachronistic, hidebound and even suspect.

Hard Times for Small Businesses

This is a paradox unique to our time. We live in a profoundly online culture with enormous access to information. However, many small to medium businesses have not quite caught up to this digital explosion and find themselves lagging behind, always one step behind the latest social network taking the world by storm.

In Came the Social Media Assistance Tools

In the world of online, where a need is determined, a product is usually not far behind. In the wake of the ever growing social platforms, online services have sprung up to offer tracking, management, and synchronization support. Software such as Hootsuite, Oktopost, and Sociota provide a one-stop-shops for managing all your media accounts, Lithium offers to nurture all your customer support and care relations for you, and Engagor targets conversations involving your business or brand as they happen in real time across all social media platforms. Such services were constructed with the small business sector in mind. They aim to provide an answer for businesses that don’t yet have those big marketing departments and extravagant social budgets.

Yet services catering to small businesses go far beyond online management and monitoring tools. With the understanding that even brick-and-mortar businesses are in need of serious web visibility came a slew of geo-based software such as Moment.me, which will aggregate all relevant social media posts related to an address you input.

If a Dog is Man’s Friend Then…

I’ve heard it said that social media assistance software is a small business’ best friend. Like a good assistant, it badgers you as little as possible with questions you don’t have clear answers for and before you know, it gets the job done. If tracking your social media traffic is what you’re after, communicating with your customers in real time, or making yourself relevant on as many social media platforms as you possibly can, these tools have your name written all over them.

b&w author pic 1Anat Richter is Content Marketing Director at emaze. When she isn’t tapping away in its Tel Aviv offices, she is documenting life on the web as a user and a guest blogger.

 

5 Easy-To-Use Blog Post Formats

If you’re starting a new blog for your business, you probably have done a lot of research on how to write blog posts. You’ve probably come across all different kinds of posts, everything from other businesses like yours to Buzzfeed’s top 10 cat gifs of the week. It can be a bit overwhelming. Every blog post is different, and you may not know which styles and formats to emulate.

The truth is, there are countless ways to write blog posts, and many different formats you can use. In my last post, I even suggested you use multiple different formats every week or month to help you write more efficiently. Here are several different, easy to use blog post formats and how to use them.

Countdown / List

Countdown or list posts are some of the most highly shared posts on the Internet, and they are easy to read and create. Made popular by sites like Buzzfeed, the countdown post is a list of headers, broken apart by small bits of content under each header. You see this all the time: “5 tips to make you a better blogger,” “The top 10 teams in Major League Baseball,” even posts like this would fall under that format.

These sorts of posts are frequently shared because the headers make it easier for speed readers to comprehend the content of the post. They also make it and for those who may not want to read the entire post to pick and choose the content they want to read. It is easy to write because the list format allows you to gather and organize your thoughts without having to worry about those pesky and sometimes difficult-to-write transitions.

To write a countdown or list post, begin with a topic. Next think of a handful of examples. Aim for a nice round number like 5 or 10, but don’t sweat it if you can only think of 4 or 7. Next, write a little bit about each example and why it pertains to the topic. Finally, write a short intro and conclusion about the subject and why it matters to your audience. It’s as simple as that!

How-To

How-to blog posts are exactly what they sound like, a post with a step-by-step outline of how to complete a task. Here on the Duct Tape Marketing blog, Sara writes great how-to posts. These are often easy to write because you’re outlining something you already know how to do, and really helpful to your audience.

To write a how-to blog post, begin with a task and list out the steps one by one. Next, spend a bit of time explaining each step, maybe even including photos or examples of each step. Make sure these steps and explanations are broken down so your blog’s audience can understand, and avoid any industry-specific jargon. Finally, write an introduction explaining to your audience why they should learn this new skill, and maybe a conclusion encouraging your audience to practice and use the new skill.

News

News posts are editorial posts that analyze a newsworthy event and apply it to your industry. News posts get shared because there is a good chance your audience is already talking about the news story.

To write a news blog post, start by creating a listening post to keep an eye (or ear) out for news that applies to your business. This can be done by following journalists and news outlets on social media, or just checking your favorite news outlets daily. Next, find a news story that may have an impact on your industry or business in the future. Begin by writing a little bit of background on the news story, and then spend time talking about how it impacts you, your industry or your customers.

Sharing

Sharing posts are some of the easiest to write, and are a valuable tool to leverage for growing your strategic partner base. These are posts where you can share other posts or products to your audience. For example, every weekend John shares his “Weekend Favs,” three new tools that can help make running a business easier.

To write a sharing post, collect blog posts or products to share throughout the week leading to the post. Be sure to keep your strategic partners in mind, and work their products and posts in often. List each item and hyperlink each one. Next, write a little about each post or product you are sharing, specifically why your audience should click the link. That’s it!

Mailbag

Finally, the mailbag post is a great way to get your audience to write your posts for you. The only catch is that you have to build up an active audience for this to work. These posts simply consist of you answering questions directly from your audience.

To write a mailbag post, call for questions from your audience either in a post on your blog or social media. Then copy/paste the questions and write your answers. If you don’t have much of an active audience, you can always think of commonly asked questions to answer, but this can be difficult.

Blog posts shouldn’t be difficult to write. These five easy blog post formats should help you get your blog rolling with great, consistent content.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How Not to Get Lost in the Content Creation Wasteland

Planning an entire year in advance – who DOES that??

You should – if you want to stay focused and on track to meet your marketing goals. To be more specific – if your marketing strategy includes blogging, sending e-newsletters, or any other form of content that you share digitally, a content calendar is a powerful tool to make your online marketing more effective. And without one, you could be just another boring fish in the online marketing sea.

As someone who does nearly all of my business online and connects with thousands of people every week using online tools, a content calendar is a no-brainer. Knowing what I want to share with my audience ahead of time makes my writing more efficient and my work less stressful. It keeps me organized. It keeps me focused on the bigger goal of constantly finding new ways to serve my best customers better.

Think of it like this: let’s say you live in Oklahoma City, and you plan to drive to Los Angeles, somewhere you’ve never been. Even though you have the fantastic invention of GPS, plus a paper map and a good friend who knows the city well to help you get to your destination efficiently and safely, you simply get in your car and start driving west.

You don’t even consider what asphalt cooking in 115-degree heat could do to your tires. You ignore the signs that read “next gas station 158 miles”. You just drive aimlessly, surviving on cold fried chicken you bought at the Albertson’s in Needles because there was literally nothing else open. You’re not sure how or when you’ll get to LA.

content planYou’ll probably still get there… but it could be a much longer and more frustrating trip than it needed to be, all because you didn’t take a few minutes to plan.

Content creation is like that. Without a clear path to your destination, it becomes a vicious cycle that alternates between writer’s block and hopelessness.

Thankfully, a bit of planning will keep you from getting lost in the Mojave Desert of content development.

If you’re reading this with a sceptical eye, then you’re probably someone who struggles with the question “But how do I know what to write about?” The answer is simple: ask your audience.

If your audience is engaged with you and asks you questions, you can build your content calendar to address their needs. Your audience is probably the most powerful planning tool you have at your disposal. The more engaged you are with them, the more they’ll tell you what they want, and the easier it is to plan your content strategy well in advance.

Wondering how to create a content strategy that has your business’s longer-term objectives in mind? Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on monthly themes. You don’t have to have every blog title, and every YouTube video script written out. But by choosing a general theme for each month, you have a framework around which to develop each piece of content. As you come up with new ideas, slot them into the most relevant themes to start building out the calendar.
  2. Plan content around your launches. Are you planning to launch a new product or program this year? Up to a month before your launch, start promoting content that relates to whatever you’re going to be selling; it brings more people into the fold who are likely to buy from you.
  3. Solve your audience’s problems. Survey your email list or Twitter followers; find out what they want to know and use that information to create your themes and your content.
  4. Be flexible. Just like a business plan, it’s impossible to stick to your content plan like glue. Be responsive to your audience’s new questions, and pay attention to current events to see if you can leverage those to make more people aware of your brand.

Ready for a smooth ride on the content creation highway? Take ten minutes today and create your monthly content themes for the rest of 2015. Your audience will thank you.

jessica omanWhen Jessica Oman (the Renegade Planner) isn’t busy helping her clients start and grow businesses that earn them a 6-figure income, she’s road-tripping in the USA with her hubby and pooch, or developing her appreciation for a good West Coast IPA. She’s written the Ultimate Guide to Leaving Your Job and Planning a Business you Can Bank on, which you can download free by clicking here.

The Most Excellent Qualities of Shareable Content

Today’s post is by Duct Tape Marketing’s Kala Linck – Enjoy!

You posted a picture of your new shoes on Facebook, and now the whole world is debating whether they are pink and green or red and yellow. 50 thousand shares, and umpteen million interactions. People are going to your Facebook page; most are even liking the page for updates on the real color of your new shoes… The alarm clock buzzes. Time to face reality.

Does this sound like a social media dream you’ve had? Ok, maybe not shoes, but having a piece of your content go viral? For this to happen, you’ve got to create shareable content. Your followers are looking for certain qualities in the content they share. If you’re not ensuring that your tweets, updates, blogs, etc. have those qualities, you’re ensuring that no one beyond your followers will ever see that information. Here are three qualities to consider including if you want to make that viral dream a reality:

Relatable

You’ve seen the tweets that say something along the lines of “I’m at Applebees,” or “I take good pictures.” While this sort of content might get some shares because of it’s comic undertones, many people cannot relate to this content, and some might even wonder why you’re sharing these updates.

With your content, instead provide something that people will relate to or use to help their daily routines, their business grow, etc. For example, “5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Photos Stand Out,” makes me want to share this information that I find valuable and think other might as well.

Refutable

If you haven’t noticed, people love to argue on social media. The most famous thing this year is a black and blue dress or was it gold and white? If you can get people passionate about something, and keep them talking – they will enlist the help of their followers, and the process will repeat.

Now, this might not be the kind of shareable content that you want. There is an art to having a debate happen and it being beneficial for the poster.

For example, you need your content to be less like this, “Why I Think Wisconsin Will Win the National Championship,” and more like, “We are thinking of offering training on-line in addition to our in-person training, what are your thoughts?” The comments that you get are likely to support a business decision, and this also gets people talking about your organization.

Relevant

This word comes up quite a bit when we’re creating content, and can seem like a buzzword at times. What does “stay relevant” really mean? By definition, it means “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” A good starting point.

Photo courtesy of delightfuldisney.tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of delightfuldisney.tumblr.com

What is important here is to figure out what exactly is the “matter at hand,” and then provide information pertaining to, or providing value for it. For example, on LinkedIn, a post that says, “2015 PowerPoint Presentations are now available on the website from those presenters who granted us permission to post their slides,” might be relevant if your following went on LinkedIn to find your PowerPoint presentation, but is that what they are looking for?

It would be my thinking that the first thing people would do when looking for said PowerPoint presentation would be to check on your website, or send an email to your organization.

A more relevant post for LinkedIn would look something like this: “Meet the VP that could be hiring YOU.” People get on LinkedIn to look up connections and jobs, and to find encouraging workplace content. Think about your audience and what they are really seeking on each social media platform, and that will help you create more relevant content.

There are lots of reasons that things go viral. Maybe they contain a cute baby or a puppy, or maybe they make you laugh or bring you to tears. More often than not, viral content pulls an emotion out of the reader or viewer. Making sure your content is relevant, refutable and/or relatable is a good way to start inviting those emotions that will make people want to share your content. And who knows, maybe your dreams of viral shoes will come true. What aspects of content make you want to share it?

Kala LinckKala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels, praying for summer or tweeting about coffee and cats @tadasunshine.

21 Blogs I Turn To When I Need to Learn How To Do Stuff

No shock in this statement – I’m a big fan of blogs and blogging as a core marketing, content and SEO practice.

Blogs

photo credit: via photopin (license)

I subscribe to many blogs, read blogs daily and generally find that when I search for things blog posts offer the most useful solutions.

I read many different types of blogs – some for inspiration, some for thought leadership and still some for personal growth.

Today I want to present a list of blogs that I turn to on a regular basis when I want to learn something practical and useful.

This list of 21 blogs isn’t top list or ranking or any other of the link bait kinds of lists you see out there. The blogs on this list are tools for me as I market and grow my business and attempt to expand my knowledge in an ever changing world.

I frequently get asked about resources I turn to and, for today, here they are. I placed them into a handful of categories, but many of them could cross over into multiple categories and often do in the range of topics they weigh in on. Most of these won’t be new to regular readers as I reference them often, but it can be helpful to see them all in one place. Subscribe to this list and you’ll always have ready access to tips, tools and techniques you can take action on today.

Feel free to share blogs you find utterly useful when you need to learn how to do stuff.

Video
Reel SEO – http://www.reelseo.com/
Video Brewery – http://www.videobrewery.com/blog/

Podcast
Podcast Answer Man – http://podcastanswerman.com/
Entrepreneur on Fire – http://www.entrepreneuronfire.com

SEO
MOZ – http://moz.com/
Search Engine Watch – http://searchenginewatch.com/

Social Media
Social Media Examiner – http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
Buffer – https://blog.bufferapp.com/
Razor Social – http://www.razorsocial.com/blog/

Facebook
Jon Loomer – http://www.jonloomer.com

PPC
PPC Hero – http://www.ppchero.com/
WordStream – http://www.wordstream.com/blog

Conversion
Kiss Metrics – https://blog.kissmetrics.com/
Unbounce – http://unbounce.com/blog/
QuickSprout – http://www.quicksprout.com/university/

Analytics
Occam’s Razor – http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/
Crazy Egg – http://blog.crazyegg.com/

Content
Content Marketing Institute – http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/blog/
Copyblogger – http://www.copyblogger.com/blog/

WordPress
WP Beginner – http://www.wpbeginner.com/category/wp-tutorials/
Yoast – https://yoast.com/